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A Revolution in Shlichus
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg


The farbrengen of Yud-Tes Kislev 5736 was almost over, the Alter Rebbe’s “Niggun in Four Parts” having already been sung, when the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach shlita made a surprising announcement.

In the sicha that followed, the Rebbe explained that he was sending a “holy assembly” of ten shluchim – bachurim and young married couples – to Yerushalayim and Tz’fas. Their mission would be to strengthen and build up Eretz Yisroel both spiritually and materially.

In the days to come, the Rebbe issued a number of additional directives indicating the special importance of this shlichus. The Rebbe also stated that these shluchim would be paving the way for others to follow. On one occasion (Shabbos Parshas Mikeitz 5736) the Rebbe even stated, “I am taking the responsibility for this entire shlichus personally.”

Further directives were issued after the shluchim arrived in the Holy Land: they were to be welcomed with a “great commotion”; with “immense joy”; their arrival should make an impression on “all our brothers, the Children of Israel”; and “a person’s emissary stands in his stead.”

Specifically, the Rebbe instructed that a grand welcoming ceremony be held with the students of the various Chabad yeshivos of Eretz Yisroel, complete with musical accompaniment. Journalists from the Israeli press were to be invited, and the Rebbe’s sicha of Yud Sh’vat on the subject of shlichus was to be distributed to the media.

Another indication of the importance of this shlichus was that the Rebbe himself saw the shluchim off from the steps of 770. The late Rabbi Mordechai Mentlik, rosh yeshiva of the central branch of Tomchei Tmimim, accompanied the shluchim to Eretz Yisroel. The Rebbe instructed him to give ten thousand liras to then Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin for the material development of the Land, and requested that he remind him of what they had discussed during a yechidus in Nissan of 5732 concerning “the nation that dwells apart,” and explain to him that it is more relevant than ever…

A major revolution in the concept of shlichus in Eretz Yisroel began with the arrival of these ten shluchim. In order to understand what it was like in those days, a little background information is necessary.

Until that time, the connection between Lubavitchers in Eretz Yisroel and the Rebbe and 770 was very limited, for a number of technical reasons. Many of the things we take for granted today did not yet exist. There were no Chabad weekly magazines, and very few mivtzaim brochures. Most of the communication with the Rebbe took the form of letters, aside from general directives that Rabbi Efraim Volf would receive from Rabbi Hodakov by phone. Compared with today, international phone calls were very expensive. It would never occur to someone to pick up a phone just to find out “what was doing in 770.” No one knew who had a yechidus or what the Rebbe said to so and so. “Sunday dollars” wouldn’t begin for many years, and there was no such thing as video. When the late R’ Levi Yitzchak Freidin made his first movie about Tishrei in 770 it was a marvelous chiddush.

In those days the Rebbe’s sichos kodesh usually came out a long time after they were said, and then only in Yiddish, in poor quality mimeographed sheets that only subscribers got in the mail. The “Vaad Hanachos B’Lashon HaKodesh” had not yet been established. Even the international phone hook-ups that had started on the “Big Yud Sh’vat” of 5730 were problematic. There were always difficulties with the phone lines, and numerous interruptions and disconnections.

In general, people didn’t know when the Rebbe would be farbrenging, and most farbrengens weren’t broadcasted anyway. Traveling to the Rebbe was also a great luxury, as a plane ticket to New York cost about three months salary of the average Israeli. Very few could afford the trip, and certainly not several times. So for the most part, most Chabadnikim of Eretz Yisroel were essentially cut off from the daily routine of 770.

Aside from technical difficulties, there was also a philosophical lack of awareness. In those days, being a Chabad Chassid expressed itself primarily in personal avoda, learning Chassidus, davening, etc. Lubavitchers of Eretz Yisroel went out on Mitzva Tefillin and engaged in outreach with other Jews, but the focus was not so much on the Rebbe and the concept that “the nasi is everything.”

In other words, the atmosphere was much less immediate than it is today. People didn’t concern themselves with what the Rebbe was saying now or was asking of them now, and they certainly weren’t lining up to go out on shlichus. Back then, some of the elder Chassidim were still grappling with the whole idea of shlichus.

However, everything began to change in the summer of 5733, when Reb Mendel Futerfas arrived in Eretz Yisroel. Reb Mendel was the number one advocate for hiskashrus to the Rebbe and the need to give oneself over to him entirely. At his farbrengens, Reb Mendel would stress the importance of traveling to the Rebbe and being in constant contact with him. Reb Mendel’s words had a great effect, but as a lone voice in the wilderness it was very difficult to change a mindset that had existed for decades. (In truth, Reb Mendel’s wasn’t the only voice. A few others, most notably Reb Avrohom Pariz, Bentzion Shemtov, and Moshe Slonim, echoed the same sentiments.)

But it was the shluchim of 5736 who ultimately succeeded in changing the atmosphere of Chabad in Eretz Yisroel. From that point on it was more focused on the Rebbe, hiskashrus, shlichus, mivtzaim, etc.

I can still remember how we would gather around the weekly summary of the Rebbe’s farbrengen after it was posted on the wall of the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad on Sundays. These summaries would be painstakingly typed by R’ Shmuel Greisman as he took dictation on the telephone. Unfortunately, the typos and “x’s” were often more numerous than the words themselves, and we would spend hours trying to decipher exactly what was meant. The whole life of the yeshiva revolved around those pages. The mashgiach would have to pry us away from the bulletin board to get us to learn a little nigleh or Chassidus. But sometimes he would forget his official duties and stand right next to us studying the page…

Despite the fact that the connection between these pages and what the Rebbe had actually said was often tenuous, to say the least, it was clearly a  major innovation. Imagine, knowing what the Rebbe had spoken about on Shabbos within 24 hours! We talked it about it constantly, we thought about it constantly, we davened with the Rebbe’s words on our minds.

These shluchim were also responsible for a general increase in momentum. Mivtzaim with the “man on the street” and Tanya shiurim in other yeshivos began to flourish. The Americans did everything with a greater breitkeit than the Israelis. They traveled the length and breadth of the country and with their youthful enthusiasm, spread the notion of “the Rebbe is everything” wherever they went.

Of course, there was still a certain degree of resistance from the “old guard,” who resented the young Americans who had been “raised in the lap of luxury” telling them what to do. There was one farbrengen in particular at which voices were raised, but the shluchim made the point that the elder Chassidim were resorting to the very same argument as the Twelve Spies. True, their mesirus nefesh behind the Iron Curtain had been more than amply demonstrated, but the future lies with the younger generation. Hadn’t Moshe Rabbeinu said, “But your little ones, of whom you said would be prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land that you have despised”? The main point was to do what the Rebbe wants from us now, in order to enter the Promised Land of the Final Redemption. Reb Mendel Futerfas, they continued, was like Kalev and Yehoshua in their time, remnants of the older generation who followed Moshe Rabbeinu and ultimately entered Eretz Yisroel…

Another “revolution” started by the shluchim was to reserve “duchening,” in all the Chabad yeshivos and shuls of Eretz Yisroel, only for Yom Tov, as is done in almost every Ashkenazic synagogue outside of Eretz Yisroel. (In most shuls in Eretz Yisroel it is customary for the Kohanim to “duchen” every day.) Their reasoning was simple: that’s the way it’s done in 770. The innovation, of course, precipitated a storm. At a farbrengen in Tz’fas, one of the elder Chassidim berated the shluchim for “not being ashamed to come to the place of the Rashbi and Arizal and start changing things around.” “On the contrary,” one of the shluchim replied, most probably after his tongue had been loosened by a little mashkeh, “the Rashbi and Arizal are no doubt delighted that the shluchim of the Rebbe shlita have arrived.”

Some time later, one of the elder Chassidim that had been present at that farbrengen had a yechidus with the Rebbe, and complained about the young shluchim who were instituting all sorts of changes. The Rebbe asked him, “But why are they doing that? They must have some sort of justification for their actions.” The Chassid replied, “They are claiming that that’s the way things are done by the Rebbe.” The Rebbe responded with a broad smile…

* * *

The main thing is to do what the Rebbe wants from us now. We cannot content ourselves with “amol” (once upon a time). For as Chassidim have often pointed out, “amol” is related to “Amalek.” Amalek wants us to concentrate on the past, but we must steadfastly hold on to the Rebbe’s “klamke” (“doorknob”) and look to the future. And the Rebbe’s klamke is clearly Moshiach…


Reb Mendel was the number one advocate for hiskashrus to the Rebbe and the need to give oneself over to him entirely.





The Chassid replied, “They are claiming that that’s the way things are done by the Rebbe.”

The Rebbe responded with a broad smile…


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